Why Your Favorite Guru Won’t Take Your Call

My readers often complain to me that the gurus they follow are aloof and inaccessible. You can’t reach them by phone… and either you get no reply to your e-mail or you get a reply from an auto-responder.

They feel that this is rude – and it makes them angry. After all, they bought the guru’s book or program… or might someday soon. Doesn’t that entitle them to some personal time and customized advice from the guru himself?

Well – yes and no.

I answer my own phone… and reply to my own e-mail messages. But I don’t think other authors and info marketers are obligated to do so (though I think they should).

When you buy a Stephen King novel, you understand that he does not have to discuss the plot with you – and most likely will not. In the same way, when you buy a business book for $20, you are purchasing the contents – and nothing beyond that. The author may also consult and speak, but he charges thousands of dollars for those services… and buying his book doesn’t entitle you to them.

One famous consultant complained to me that some of the subscribers to his free e-zine have the gall to call him up, ask for free advice, and then grumble when they don’t get it.

“Do they not realize that my paying clients get first dibs on my time?” he asked me.

I do. It makes sense to me. And I hope to you too. Still, I want to help my readers as much as I can.

So how do I respond to queries and complaints, both phone and e-mail, without becoming overwhelmed – and unable to get my work done?

For e-mail queries and complaints, about 90 percent are routine (e.g., did not receive a product they ordered on my website, can’t open the PDF of an e-book, etc.). These I pass on to my assistant, because she can handle them better than I can.

About 10 percent require a more thoughtful answer. These I answer myself – via e-mail or sometimes a brief phone call.

Tip: When a customer registers a problem or complaint via e-mail, calling them on the phone and helping them one-on-one converts them from a complainer into a rabid fan. They are shocked that you actually took the time to call – and care enough to resolve their problem personally.

Of course, I can’t talk to everyone all the time. So I use caller ID to screen my inbound phone calls.

After the call, I listen to the voice mail. If it’s routine, I pass the request or complaint on to my assistant. If it’s a situation where my personal attention would add value or create more satisfaction, I return the call myself.

If you’re an information marketer, you’ll find that people you don’t know are going to try to pump you endlessly for free consulting over the phone – and you want to avoid falling into that trap. Public speaking expert Patricia Fripp has a great technique that I learned from her and use with good results for handling these brain-pickers. When someone who is not a client wants to ask me questions, I say: “My time normally sells for $500 an hour. I will give you five minutes – starting now.”

This makes the caller understand that your time is limited… and that by talking with them without charge, you are doing them a favor and giving them something of value.

Five minutes may not seem like much – but at $500 an hour, five minutes of my time is worth almost $42. That’s a generous gift to give a total stranger. The time limit also forces callers to get to the point, not waste my time with long explanations, and listen to what I tell them without debate or argument.

Here’s another way to save time on answering questions from readers:

Produce content – an FAQ page on your website, a blog, a newsletter, a special report, an information product – on the topics you are asked about most often. Then, when people ask you for advice on Topic X, give them the URL of the website where they can either read your content for free… or purchase your information product on Topic X.

Have I been clear on how to handle inquiries from clients, customers, prospects, readers, and fans? If not, I expect you’ll call or e-mail me for clarification – and I welcome hearing from you.

[Ed. Note: Bob Bly is the author of more than 70 books and an undisputed master of the art of selling. Subscribe to his free e-zine, The Direct Response Letter, and claim your free gift worth $116.

Have a question for one of ETR’s experts? E-mail us at AskETR@ETRFeedback.com.]

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Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.